Hi all. Here’s my quick little Wednesday update post I seem to be doing from time to time. Yesterday the federal government passed down its budget for 2021-22, and well, it may seem a strange place to hide it but it was revealed just when they foresee the borders reopening allowing tourists from overseas visit Australia and of course, Australians to travel overseas again (beyond New Zealand). It’s not as soon as I’d hoped. In fact, I would venture that it’s not as soon as anyone hoped.
Qantas staked a fair bit on the date being late October this year, but that now looks like an unlikely reality. Last week a minister was interviewed, and he suggest middle to late 2022 is when regular international flights beyond the ones that bring in a few thousand returning Australians a week might be seen.
Last night’s budget confirmed that the government doesn’t see flights resuming and international borders opening this year at the very least. Not in any meaningful way. It is possible that international students may start to trickle back by the end of the year. We’ll see. The issues are really that despite Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, insisting earlier this week that the policy in regards to Covid in Australia was to maintain ‘zero’ new cases outside quarantine, this has clearly been their objective since probably mid-2020. And he doesn’t want to tarnish that.
In fact, some media commentators are suggesting it’s all to do with politics. If borders were to open up this year before the election and there were to be outbreaks here in Australia, which has now had next to no community transmission since November or even October last year (we have had small outbreaks but I don’t think of more than 17-20 cases in one hit, and states lockdown over one or two cases these days), it might adversely affect his party’s chances in said election, which is due at some time in the next 12 months. Governments choose the election date here, and he was looking at a landslide win last year (but it has to be held within a certain period) and today the Liberal (our conservatives) /National Party Coalition is 4 points down in the polls after a series of scandals.
Also, they boasted 4 million does of the vaccines would be rolled out by the end of March. It’s now mid-May and we’re at around 2.5 million, still just under 1% on Australia fully vaccinated. So this has gone a LOT slower than they had hoped and planned for.
Economically we are doing pretty well and the next financial year they PREDICT a 4.5% growth in GDP. And they don’t want to risk that. But the fact is here we have done, thus far, a great job at keeping Covid out and many Australians wouldn’t like to see that go south.
As for me, well, it really is all a bit depressing. And there still is no clear timeline on my ability to resume travel overseas available. In some ways though just having some idea I guess is a bit of relief. But the fact that we don’t really know if these plans will work out. Or maybe there will be a massive vaccine push and cases will disappear. Very unlikely of course. And right now nearly half the new cases in the world are appearing in India. It’s over 2% fully vaccinated but when the population is well over a billion, well, that’s still well over a billion who are not.
And honestly, it’s really hard waiting to see what happens in the world for me, travel has been such an important part of my life for twenty-two years now. But we mustn’t forget that Covid is still a reality and is still killing thousands of people a day. And the freedom to travel for me and other Australians, well, it’s hardly an issue in that context.
So wherever you are stay safe. If you can travel internationally and want to, do it with care and understanding. Remember that the vaccine is not a free ticket to immunity, but a stepping stone to returning the world, perhaps, to something which now is just a memory in my mind. And it’s not there to allow people to travel again, although that hopefully is something it will make possible. It’s there to save lives. Lives of the vulnerable. Of those who if they were to get Covid may well die.
Thanks, and May the Journey Never End.